Alejandro Escovedo: The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch/EMI)

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Alejandro Escovedo: Arizona
Alejandro Escovedo: The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch/EMI)

When you see that John Cale, formerly of The Velvet Underground, has produced an album you tend to take notice: he helmed the stunning debuts by Patti Smith, The Stooges and Modern Lovers, and down the decades has worked with Nico, Jennifer Warnes and Jesus Lizard.

With singer-guitarist Escovedo he has a like-minded, dark-hearted spirit who brings the added dimension of his Mexican-American background, and was in seminal bands like the Nuns, Rank and File and True Believers (with guitarist Jon Dee Graham who here joins the line-up).

His solo career of eight previous albums had Rolling Stone writer David Fricke asking, "What does it take to make this man a star?"

Sadly, maybe a near-fatal skirmish with Hep C and unpaid bills which levelled him three years ago.

The spirit of death and darkness imbues this remarkable, diverse and poetically dense album (which admittedly sounds like some of Cale's solo work in places). But what prevents it from being self-indulgent melancholy are the exciting musical beds of cello, violin, synthesiser, stabbing electric guitars, open strum acoustic guitars, and suggestions of rock's rich past.

He conjures up I'm Waiting For The Man on Break This Time, there is Tex-Mex cantina rock scattered throughout, and some beautiful ballads (the pure pop of Looking For Love, the heartbreaking The Ladder, and Died A Little Today are sung in a fragile quiver).

But mostly this has a sense of brooding menace. It won't do for quiet dinner parties, but if you are looking for an album that challenges as well as rewards, then this is the one

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